tv PBS News Hour PBS December 1, 2011 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: president obama marked world aids day and pledged to provide h.i.v. treatment for millions more in the united states and around the world. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the "newshour" tonight: we discuss the impact of the president's plan three decades into a pandemic that's killed 30 million people worldwide. >> woodruff: then, margaret warner gets an update on the situation in burma from william wan of the washington post as secretary of state clinton makes the first top level official visit in more than 50 years. >> brown: "newshour" science correspondent miles o'brienç
reports on the growing concernç over the use of full-body scanners at airports across the country. >> it uses x-rays to see right through clothing and identify all kinds of potential threats. critics call it an electronic strip search. >> woodruff: we have a conversation with long-time congressman barney frank of massachusetts as he announces plans to retire at the end of this term. >> brown: and hari sreenivasan talks with global-post correspondent iaon grillo about his new book "el narco," which chronicles the growth of mexico's violent drug cartels. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> computing surrounds us. sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's very surprising where you find it. soon, computing intelligence in unexpected places will changeó & our lives in truly profound ways.ç technology can provide customized experiences, tailored
to individual consumer preferences, igniting a world of possibilities from the inside out. sponsoring tomorrow, starts today. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.çç >> brown: "we can beat this disease," so declared president obama as he marked world aids day. he also pledged a stepped-up effort to reach more victims of a pandemic that began 30 years
ago and has since infected an estimated 66 million people worldwide. the president announced the initiative in washington and raised the hope that earlier treatment and prevention could soon lead to the beginning of the end of aids, three decades few could have imagined this >> few could have imagined that we'd be talking about the real possibility of an aids-free generation. that's what we're talking about, that's why we're here.ç d warrived here because of all of you and your unwavering belief that we can and will beat this disease. >> brown: speaking at george washington university, the president called for distributing anti-retroviral drugs to two million more people worldwide by 2013, including 1.5 million h.i.v. positive pregnant women. funding would come from savings through the "president's emergency plan for aids relief" program, known as pepfar. president george w. bush created the program in 2003 to provide
treatment to four million people. he joined the event, along with president clinton by satellite. >> there is no greater priority than living out the admonitionç to whom much is given, much isç required. we are a blessed nation in the united states of america and i believe we are required to support effective programs that save lives. >> brown: president obama's new initiative also called for an additional $50 million for h.i.v. treatment in the united states. earlier this week, the c.d.c. released a report showing that just two in five of the more than one million americans with h.i.v. have their infection under control. worldwide, some 34 million people now live with h.i.v./aids. in south africa, where more than five and a half million are infected, a memorial service was held. a nurse at one aids hospice center said she remainsçç optimistic about the availability of new treatment and funding.
>> so, i think we are making progress, slowly, in our country, but it's thanks to a civil society. we fight hard for what we've got around h.i.v./aids and a.r.v.s. >> brown: but concerns in africa and worldwide remain, particularly in the midst of a financial crisis that threatens funding cutbacks. just last week, the global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria-- the world's largest backer of h.i.v. treatment and prevention programs-- announced it would halt any new grants until 2014. there's also been sobering news on the scientific front, as trials of a promising microbicide gel for h.i.v. prevention for women in developing countries were halted after researchers saw noç decrease in new infections.ç still, the tone today was optimistic and the president called on americans to continue to lead the way. >> look back at the history of h.i.v./aids and you'll see that no other country has done more than us.
live with less over the past few years. yet all they see here is that washington just keeps getting bigger and bigger and richer. it's about time washington took the hit for a change. so we think this is a plan that those who are fed up with washington and wall street can embrace. >> holman: democrats rejected the republican plan. senate majority leader harry reid charged the republicans' real goal is to protect the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. >> this is really a subterfuge what they are doing, what they are trying to do. they are not letting the rich do what's fair as seen by the american people. and not only that, we're trying to create jobs, they are going to cut jobs. probably as many as 250,000 job, middle class jobs. >> holman: neither side appeared to have the 60 votes likely to be needed to advance a plan. the economy turned in a mixed report today.
government data showed factory output grew last month, and construction spending was up in november. but first-time claims for unemployment benefits moved back above 400,000 last week. it was enough to keep wall street in check, after wednesday's huge rally. the dow jones industrial average lost 25 points to close at 12,020. the nasdaq rose nearly six points to close at 2,626. u.s. auto sales in november may turn out to be the strongest in more than two years. chrysler reported today its sales were up 45% over a year ago. ford sales went up by 13% and general motors had a gain of 7%. the industry says sales were driven by people who held off buying during the recession. the average age of a car on u.s. highways is now more than ten- and-a-half years-- a record. the european central bank may reverse course and take stronger action on the continent's debt crisis. bank chief mario draghi hinted that today, before the european parliament in brussels.
he opened the door to buying more bonds oheavily indebted governments in a bid to safeguard the euro system. but draghi said first, the euro zone nations must link their fiscal policies to prevent runaway spending. >> it's first and foremost important to get a commonly shared fiscal compact right. confidence works backwards f there is an anchor in the long term it is easier to maintain trust in the short term. after all investors have themselves often taken decisions with a long-term horizon. especially with regard to government bonds. >> holman: in another development, french president nicolas sarkozy and german chancellor angela merkel announced they'll meet monday in paris. sarkozy said they will call for fundamental changes in the treaty governing the euro system. islamist parties in egypt now appear certain to be the big winners in that country's landmark parliamentary elections.
newspapers in cairo today predicted a major victory for the muslim brotherhood, the country's oldest islamist group. an ultra-fundamentalist party was mpeting for second place. meanwhile, official results from this week's first round of voting were delayed until tomorrow. the elections commission said it needs more time to count all the votes because of the large turnout. the u.n.'s top human rights official concluded today that syria has plunged into a civil war. navi pillay said the death toll may be far higher than the official figure of 4,000 killed since the syrian uprising began, eight months ago. also today, the u.s., the european union and the arab league imposed additional sanctions on a dozen leading syrians and eleven syrian companies. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: hillary clinton in burma-- a country not seen by a u.s. secretary of state in more than 50 years. margaret warner has the story.
>> warner: secretary clinton is spending three days in the isolated nation. "washington post" correspondent willian juan who is traveling with her joins us by phone. william, thanks for being with us. relations between the u.s. and the military regime in burma have been in a deep freeze for a couple of decades. how is secrary clinton being received? >> she's been received well. she is the first u.s. official ever to set foot in the presidential palace, this ornate, somewhat gaudy mansion that looks like it's built for giants. and so that in itself is a big, big step. >> warner: well, tell us about that meeting with the president saying in the new capitol. what message was she conveying and what came out of it? >> it was a very interesting interaction. it took part basically on the part of the president t was a 45 minute very detailed presentation going point by point, his plan for reforming everything that has-- people have criticized this country for. and it shows kind of the
eagerness as well as somewhat the desperation of the country for lifting of sanctions, for engagement with the outside world. he's really putting a lot of eggs in this basket, it seems, in the meeting with the secretary. and then on clinton's side, she was also a very formal presentation, five points going one after the other, over what they want in order to give them these kind of incentives like lifting of sanctions. they want full release of political prisoners. reforms like media freedom. most importantly political freedom as well as a cease-fire to the brutal kind of wars that are going on between military troops and ethnic minorities in the outlying regionses of burma. >> warner: . >> warner: so afterwards what conclusions did she and her team draw on whether this government is seriously committed to more reforms beyond, say, the new media openness they are allowing? >> they were very cautious going in. and i think coming out they are also very cautious at
least publicly. but you know, administration officials have kind of told me they were very surprised by the frank nature of the talks. the president expressed the pressure he was under that there were some within the government, many are either sit on the fence about these reforms or actively opposing them. it's unknown even though the-- to the highest levels of the state department exactly how much control he has over the government, how these decisions are made, and so it's a very delicate balance. they're very careful not to claim any kind of foreign policy victory yet, even if you see the excitement in a lot of these state departments, folks because this is delicate and there has been a lot of promise in the past before of reform that fell apart. and in fact devolved into brutal crackdowns of democracy movements. >> warner: and tonight she was having dinner with the nobel laureate opposition
aung sung su chi. >> it was a private dinner between thewo of them, that was less policy and more personality, i think. one person who was briefed on it told me they talked about su chi's memories as a little girl swimming in a lake near where they were eating. most interestingly, su chi said one of the things she missed about being under house arrest is that she had a lot of time to read. and so that lead to this discussion of what she's reading now. and she says she's reading a lot about military personalities, specifically military personalities who have gone into politics. and it was an interesting insight because this is exactly who she is is dealing with now, the president, a military general, who you know, has gone civilian and now is running the country ostensibly. this is the person she has to deal with. so you see her trying to grapple with how to deal with this man and make compromises is so that they can build these reforms that both have been talking about. >> warner: and how does the u.s. see aung sung su chi's
role right now. how does she fit into the u.s.-- of the u.s. intention. >> the u.s. has been deliberate and careful consulting her before they do anything. the surprising thing is the level of commitment she has shown to its president, it's surprising, the same government that kept her under house arrest for two decades, she is now starting to work with and even endorsing the u.s. working with. so she has a lot at risk here that she is putting into the game. secretary clinton and obama have a lot at risk as well because of the-- they are lending to the talks and the president is under extreme pressure, i think, and has a lot at risk. and so i think the more people have at risk, one of the officials was telling me, the more chance there is of this succeeding. everyone has something to lose. but again it's very delicate, all sides think this could fall apart any time. >> warner: finally so, few americans have seen myanmar,
give us a flavor of what it is like. have you been able to talk with any ode burmese? >> i've tried, you know, we spent one day in the new capital t is a bizarre place. it's fairly newly constructed in the last three years it is big, bulky government buildings, sprawling complexes. and then from one complex to another on these cement highways so it is a network of these big complexes which very few cars, wide, wide highways and no one to really talk to besides, you know, we tried to go to dinner at a restaurant. people are still very careful in talking to outsiders. -- on the other hand, very different, very vibrant city a lot of tourists, people are very friendly. but i think they are a little more open in talking. here i have been talking a lot to the dissidents, the opposition movement. and everyone wants to talk but they're still very careful in please don't use
my name. this is just my view, and because there has been media reforms but who knows how long those reforms will last. >> warner: fascinating, william juan from the "washington post", thanks some of. >> it's been great, thanks for having me. >> brown: and we come back to world aids day and the president's announcement now with doctor eric goosby is the u.s. global aids ambassador in the obama administration. doctor patricia nkansah-asamoah is the director of clinic at tema hospital in ghana that works to prevent transmission of the virus from mother to child. and david ernesto munar is the president and c.e.o. of the aids foundation of chicago, which works to improve healthcare and services of people with h.i.v. he tested positive for h.i.v. in 1994. i will start with you ambassador goosby, how close are we today to see wag the
president referred to as an aids-free generation that great hope. >> well, thank you. we're very close to understanding the science of prevention intervention, that when combined in the appropriate way, allow us to drop the number of new infections or incidents precipitously. the ability to use male circumcision to prevent mother to child transmission and now with distribution and targeted populations at high risk with condoms, behavioral modifications that complement and enable that, matched with the new data that came in last summer showing the treatment drops the risk of infecting another individual by 96%. all in combination, really give us an opportunity to drop that incidence curve precipitously. >> brown: when you say close, i mean give us-- you can actually put years on it or a time frame? >> the modelling that we've been able to do shows that we will begin this process over the next three years by
moving our numbers of people with a concentration of treatment, matched with an expansion of our prevention portfolio. so moving our prevention strategies to a maximum and now adding a more vigorous treatment component to of it. we're looking at three to five years for our, in our ability to actually have more people getting on treatment than are actually becoming newly infected. >> brown: and clear up one thing for us. in the president's announcement today, is there actually new money going into these programs or is it more from savings fr existing programs, in the current budget climate, can you guarantee new funds being directed to those? >> we are in a position where we have gotten so good at saving resources, money, in our current programs at our current level of funding that we have been able to calculate that if we increase our numbers by $2 million we have the resources to do that in our current funding window.
and anticipate that that will be the case if that funding is maintained. >> now dr. nikansah-asamoah what do you see on the ground every day? and you were at the event today. >> yes. >> brown: what dow take from that as the hope that translates to what you see on the ground. >> yeah, i was very excited when the president announced that even, he would like to go beyond the 4,000 people they were anticipating to put on a, v to 6,000. there has been a lot of disappointment when global fund consult some proposal sent because of funding issues. and for me it just takes me back to the time when we did not have access to arc. >> brown: those are the anti-receipt ra virals. >> exactly, yeah. when you went into the clinic and all you had to tell someone was i know you have hiv but there isn't much i can do to help you. when there was a sense of helplessness for you as a clinician, to even tell someone what they had to do.
so with all the cuts t was almost-- are we going to go back to those days, but today's message was very, very hopeful and it made me very excited that what i was doing was not just going to come to an end as i was probably thinking and that there was some hope that in the next few years there will be funding to support what we were doing. >> but what are you doing depends so much on the funding. >> that is so true. >> brown: we are still in this very tough financial situation. >> exactly. >> brown: most countries may have a hard time coming up with the funds. >> yeah. >> brown: and what touchly-- usually happens is what country's pledge, is sometimes is so small out of their budget, sometimes less than 1 percent, but a lot of the population sometimes have the feeling that this is such a huge amount. some people it is about 10% or 20% of their budget and the thing that in such difficult times, such money should not go to help other
people, should be given back into the country. this is so, so, small looking at the budgets governments have and what they have pledged to support global funds, so what we are saying is that it may look small but when it comes to saving lives, these monies really go a long way and improve the lives of a lot of people. >> brown: now david ernesto munar one-- one of the things the president said today which may be surprising, the rate of new infections might be going down elsewhere but it's to the going down here in the united states. and we cited that statistic that just two in five here get the care they need. now why is that happening? >> that's correct. and we are very concerned about the state of the epidemic in the u.s. and we know today that there is 1.2 million americans living with hiv. a quarter of a million of them don't even know they're infected and half a million do knothey are infected and are not receiving the
medical care and treatment they need that could save their lives and help slow new infections. and this is a huge problem and that's being driven by a variety of issues. pov cert a big one. lack of access to health care and stigma, still contributes to individuals so fearful of others learning their status that they don't con forward to receive the care and support that they need. >> and who's most affected? >> well, in the u.s. we're continuing to see ep dem thake increasingly is affecting people of color so two-third its of those living with hiv are african-american and latino, principally in the african-american communities very hardly affected, about half of all living cases are individuals in african-american community. and looking at it by modes of transmission, gay men and male to male sexual contact continues to drive about half of all new infections. and about a quarter of new infections are heterosexually transmitted. we've seen some progress reducing hiv transmission
through contaminated needel and sharing equipment, and need to sustain our work in that area. and actually could eliminate those if we stay the course. >> dr. goosby, you have been in this fight for a long time yourself including here in the u.s.. what do you see happening in the united states in particular? >> i think that the administration has developed a national strategy that identifies the populations that are at highest risk for acquiring hiv. it requires a concentration, concerted effort to identify, enter and retain these populations in care and treatment that requires health workers and individuals that are in and of and trusted by the community to bring them in and retain them over time. the stigma is a real issue. the awareness and ability to
reveal them to sometimes-- with illegal behavior in terms of the drug user n terms of the gay population, a population that has not been embraced in mainstream medical delivery systems. >> brown: is it surprising to see these numbers this late in the game of the number of people that aren't getting adequate treatment? >> it, you know, i've been following this epidemic for many years and since 1994 these patterns were really present. the population can be immobilized by the stigma associated with revealing yourself to your family or to your community. and that barrier is a real barrier that medical delivery systems have to, have specific strategies to overcome. >> dr. nikansah-asamoah, how do you maintain the enthusiasm of a day like today? we look at this at least every year. and there have been such
patterns of optimism and pitch and concerns about frustrations over lack of vaccine one year and then some hope the next year. how do you maintain the enthusiasm and go on? >> well, i think one way, one powerful way is to look at your own work. and sometimes we deliver services, we don't even look at the thing wes have done to be able to look at patterns like dr. goosby said. he has been following the trends since 1994, so he can look at it and see clearly that we are making progress in those areas. we need to do this in that area. usually when are you providing care, sometimes you get a little overwhelmed. sometimes i feel the numbers are just growing. and you look at your own work and you look at how much impact are you making, of course sometimes realize there are places are you not doing so well. you just add to those places, and you deliver more care so it's important as we do these things to go back, look at what, look how it impacts you are make. if we are able to say, you
know, let's say 20 million babies from coming-- becoming infected and have the data to show for, it energizes you to want to do more. >> brown: we just have about 45 seconds or more but with someone living with hiv how do you assess the situation in maintaining the positive movement forward inness. >> well, i am enthusiastic. i know that we've made progress. we are seeing in our own community here in chicago. we need to stay the course and i think today's call for getting to zero and starting the beginning of the end of the ep bell-- ep dem sick so important with. we have all the tools at our disposal now to make enormous differences in the lives of people that will require greater political and economic leadership. and that's what i hope today brings. and we need to stay focused and deliver the best of the tools that we have. in doing so, we will reap enormous benefits with not only those affected by really improve entire
societies, communities and really help our economy. >> brown: all right, david earnouso munar, patricia nikansah-asamoah, ambassador eric goosby, thank you all three very much. >> thank you. >> pleasure. >> thank you. >> woodruff: millions of americans are taking to the skies during this holiday travel season. but some experts continue to raise concerns about those full- body scanners being used to screen passengers. "newshour" science correspondent miles o'brien looks into the science behind the machines. his story was done in partnership with the online news site, pro-publica. >> reporter: okay. i am getting outfitted with some tools of the terrorist trade. now this is pretty much the same consistency as c-4 which is plastic explosives, right? >> right.
>> reporter: but this is a full body scanner with superman visn. steve smith is its inventor. it uses x-rays to see right through clothing and identify all kinds of potential threats. critics call it an electronic strip search. >> here we have small metal objects in your left front pocket. >> reporter: keys. >> metal watch band. here we have the handgun. >> reporter: right. they are called backscatter body scanners. they were widely deployed by theransportation security administration at u.s. airports last year amid an uproar over the perceived privacy invasion. at the university of california san francisco, biochemist and imaging expert john sedat was and is concerned about the small amount of ionizing radiation from the x-rays. this the sort of radiation that damages our d.n.a. and can cause
cancer. sedat reached out to some colleagues. >> and we all became kind of concerned as to what exactly were the intensities of these x- rays. and the more questions we asked, it was clear there were fewer and fewer answers. >> reporter: even though this was the biggest change in airport security since the f.a.a. first mandated baggage screening and metal detectors in the early '70s, the t.s.a. conducted only limited tests on the backscatter machines, and no independent safety tests have been done at all. so the scientists wrote a letter to president's science advisor raising numerous red flags about the safety, and the scientific rigor used to test the technology. eventually, they received a four page response from the food and drug administration. >> which was in reality nothing more than a restatement of the facts that are out there primarily coming from the company that makes these
machines. >> reporter: the company is called rapiscan based in torrance california. the t.s.a. has purchased 250 of the machines so far at $180,000 a piece. rapiscan hopes to sell the government many more machines, assuming the t.s.a. approves a new model, which replaces the privacy stripping images with cartoonish graphics. peter kant is the vice president for government affairs. all right. so walk me through this. what's going on in here? >> so here on the left are the computers that are operating the system and its power sources. >> reporter: kant gave me an under the hood look at the device. this rectangular box generates an x-ray beam through a narrow slot. as it moves, a disk spins in front of the slot, creating a so-called raster scan. the x-ray beam is about the diameter of a sharpened pencil point. >> so it's never on one part of the body for over one two thousandths of a second as it's moving through. if there are any changes in how fast that x-ray is moving either
faster or slower, the system automatically shuts down. >> reporter: kant claims the system is fail-safe. the x-rays penetrate only a quarter inch into the skin-- like radar, they reflect back to detectors-- which capture the images. x-rays used in the backscatter, do they raise the risk level for those who are subjected to them? >> they use small amount of x- rays as possible that we can generate, because that actually helps in the detection, having the lower power x-ray. and so, it's about equivalent to eating the same level of radiation we get from eating half a banana. the potassium in a banana is slightly radioactive. >> reporter: everyone agrees the backscatter machine is designed to emit a tiny amount of ionizing radiation. in fact, we get a much bigger dose while we are in the air. our atmosphere is what protects us from radiation from space. the higher you go, the less protection you get. so when you are flying at 35,000 feet, you are exposed to a lot more radiation than you are at sea level.
>> reporter: on a typical cross- country flight we absorb about half the radiation we would receive in a chest x-ray. the advertised radiation emitted from a backscatter scan-- about 20 to 50 microsieverts is equivalent to the dose we get flying at 35,000 feet for about two or three minutes. >> but it's also true that when you have more radiation, it is worse for you. if you have less radiation, it is less bad. and if you have less and less and less and less and less, you finally get to a point where any risk of that radiation is just trivial and you shouldn't be making decisions on the basis of it. and that's literally the place the body scanners operate at. >> so the question is what is the cancer risk for this individual? >> reporter: david brenner is director of the center for radiological research at columbia university medical center. he says the odds are one in ten million people will develop cancer as a result of a backscatter scan. but when fully deployed-- a billion travelers could pass
through a backscatter machine each year. >> it's a very small risk, so, you and i don't have to worry about walking through these machines. but if a thousand million people walk through these machines, it's a whole different ball game. >> reporter: brenner says its like the lottery. the odds may be long, but people still win. brenner predicts when fully deployed, backscatter scanners could give a hundred travelers cancer every year. >> reporter: so instead of the power ball, its cancer ball? >> instead of power ball, it's cancer ball indeed. and the issue is we don't need to have a cancer ball because we have alternatives which don't use x-rays. >> reporter: the alternative dr. brenner refers to uses lower frequency millimeter waves to do the same job. unlike x-rays, millimeter waves do not emit ionizing radiation. the t.s.a. says the devices have the same detection capabilities,
so far the agency has deployed equal numbers of each machine. >> i think they're both very, very safe. >> reporter: robin kane is the t.s.a.s assistant administrator for security technology. >> keeping multiple technologies in play is very worthwhile for the u.s. and getting that cost effective solution and being able to increase the capabilities of technology because if you keep everyone trying to get the better mousetrap and spiral up their capability >> reporter: but the u.s. stands nearly alone in its embrace of backscatter. european union regulators recently banned any body scanner that uses x-rays in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens' health and safety. in the u.s., the food and drug administration is responsible for approving electronic products that emit radiation. but the agency relies solely on information supplied by the manufacturer.
f.d.a. dan kassiday refused to the t.s.a. tested the devices behind closed doors without scrutiny from independent scientists. the johns hopkins applied physics laboratory and the army public health command measured the radiation dose, but they did not address the potential impact to man health. the t.s.a. says it is reluctant to allow a more open scientific vetting of these machines because it might undermine security. >> the balance between the sharing of information versus what detection capabilities are is very sensitive to us and to be able to understand what the machine could do is either classified information or sensitive security information so there is less knowledge out there. i don't think that that means we haven't done honest assessment of what the safety is because we've had all those independent bodies looking at it. we produced this story in
>> these are what we call anthropomorphic phantoms, they are basically plastic versions of human beings. >> reporter: david brenner says the t.s.a. owes it to the public to be more forthcoming. so this would react to a radiation source much as a human body would. >> very much as a human body would. >> reporter: he says a phantom test is the most accurate way to measure the radiation dose. >> these are not easy measurements to make at all, in fact, they are really hard measurements, and that's why really you need the whole scientific community contributing to really make sure we understand what's going on with these machines. there is a lot of uncertainty right now, and that's because very few people have had access to doing these measurements. >> reporter: arizona state university physicist peter rez worries about the uncertainty as well. and after carefully scrutinizing backscatter images, he also is concerned about the efficacy of the machines. >> what the machines detect is edges. that becomes the anomaly that they go after. what they cannot do is to differentiate between a high explosive and human tissue.
>> reporter: the t.s.a. won't comment on the capabilities or vulnerabilities of its screening devices. but the so-called "underwear bomb" nearly detonated on a flight to detroit by umar farouk abdul mutallab on christmas day 2009 would very likely have gone undetected by backscatter x- rays. ironically, it was that incident that hastened the decision to use backscatter scanners in u.s. airports. by that time, steve smith had already sold his invention to rapiscan. so now he is trying to get back in the game. he runs a small company working on a new generation of backscatter scanners that are smaller, and he says, more accurate. he says his critics are in dark. so they're not making an informed argument, do you think? >> no, they are clearly not making an informed argument. >> reporter: should they be given that information or is there no way to do that?
>> the issue of what information you can release to third parties regarding security equipment is of course is a very touchy situation. >> reporter: the scientists who are critical of backscatter scanners would not disagree they are uninformed. in fact, they say that is precisely the point. >> brown: it's science thursday on our website. among other things you'll find a follow-up conversation on the body scanners between miles and hari sreenivasan. >> woodruff: now, to our interview with sixteen-term congressman barney frank. the massachusetts democrat announced this week he would not seek reelection next year, after more than four decades in politics. frank began his career in the massachusetts state legislature, and was elected to the u.s. house of representatives in 1980. he served as chairman of the house financial services committee from 2007 to early this year, where he helped push
through the $700 billion bailout of u.s. financial institutions. he also co-wrote last year's law to impose new regulations on wall street, along with former democratic senator christopher dodd. and representative barney frank joins us now. >> i'm glad to be here. >> woodruff: you said in making your announcement that part of the decision was because of the reapportionment of your boston district and you also talked about the political atmosphere being such that you think it's hard, if not impossible, for congress to get anything done. can congress be productive any more? >> i hope so. but actually and that's an accurate quote. but let me say what i meant by it. i think the ability to affect public policy from inside the congress is now constrained by the political atmosphere. i don't intend to walk away from my add vos -- ad advocacy. i do think at this point where i can be more useful is in trying to change the
political atmosphere. trying to help mobilize the kind of political pressure needed because essentially what we have is the american people, the american constitution have used their freedom to enact one set of people in 2008 and a different set in 2010. most people don't have that. they don't have the overlap electoral terms. so i intend to do more from the outside. now i'm more comfortable as an inside player. i think mi a better legislator than candidate but i think advocacy is important. having said that judy, there is an extraordinary situation now where i do think we have a chants to make some progress by the fact that inertia is now a progressive force. up until now it's been very frustrating for those of us that want to see constructive activity because you had a very conservative republican majority ready to say no to everything. but they've kind of been boxed. here's the situation. if congress does not act at all in 2012 all of the bush tax cuts will expire. everybody's taxes will go up. similarly, sequestration will go into affectnd there
will be substantial reductions in spending but the military will take a bigger hit than domestic. what that means is this. those of us who would like to see not everybody's taxes go up but tax increases on the wealthy and those of us who want to see some cuts in the military, inertia is now on our side. if our conservative friends continue to say we're to the going to do anything until you come to us, then they'll have bad results. so i think in this peculiar circumstances of 2012 with sequestration pending and bush tax cuts expiring both at the end of the 2012, we have a chance to get good results. one reason i decided not run again is i don't want to spend my time campaigning when there is a chance to get whoever is there but in the meantime we need electoral change. >> woodruff: should the american people continue to have faith in a congress which as you describe and so many others say is dysfunctional? >> well, by the way, judy, where do you think this congress came from from? you would be surprised how few members of the house of representatives parachute mood the dome. everybody there was elected by, guess who, the american people.
when you say the american people lost faith, are you telling me the american people have no faith in the results of their own electoral activity. because the congress consists, and you know, you want to blame somebody i guess you can blame james madison. in america, unlick england, unlike israel, japan, other democracies, we have elections that have station erred terms. so you have a president-elected by the american people in 2008 and then a congress elected by the american people in 2010, diametrically opposed to him. and the people are part of this equation. so no, people shouldn't lose faith. they should understand that now in 2012, they have a chance to cast a tie breaker. again, they voted one way in 2008, another way in 2010. now everybody is on the ballot in 2012, at least all the house and president, and if the public has a more consistent mandate that will make a big difference. >> woodruff: let's talk about barney frank's legacy or at least part of it, the dodd frank financial regulatory law, now law,
clearly it has its detracters it has people who say it's the right way to go. but barney frank for you, how do you see what do you think for ode americans this law can make the most difference. >> well, first, we did a great breakthrough. until the bill was signed by the president, if you had a problem with the financial institution f you were a consumer felt you had been unfairly treated, your recourse was to the regulators in charge of the financial institutions who inevitably are going to have a bias towards them so we passed the strongest single piece of consumer legislation in american history, the independent consumer financial protection bureau, that elizabeth bar ren helped design and i'm proud and she gives me credit which i will take, for being the major proponent of that along with her. and so that's a very important piece. secondly, we took a number of actions that are going to prevent, not prevent but severely diminish the likelihood of another crash. people are not going to be able to make loans and then walk away from the loans.
they're going to have to have some responsibility for the loans they make. derivatives which were such a terrible instrument when they were totally unregulated will now be regulated. we may be illegal, the granting of mortgages by anybody to people who shouldn't be getting the mortgages. and finally with regard to getting back to individuals, we significantly increased the responsibility that investors have to people. we said that if are you going to be advertising people, if are you going-- su have a fiduciary responsibility, meaning you have to take their interests into account so it will both protect individuals through the consumer bureau, and lessen the chance of another meltdown. >> we only have a few minutes left so i'm going to ask you a couple of questions and just ask you for brief answers. the housing crisis, something very important to you, still more than a quarter of american mortgages, americans who live in house and have a mortgage are underwater. what is the most important thing that you think needs to be done. >> i know you have limited time but please answer to the housing crisis is going to be hard to do.
what, one of the things i want to do is increase the extent to which the rental housing for low income people so we don't push people into inappropriate home ownership. to the regard to people underwater. i in frustrated. we did get ledge slais through that gave the obama administration the power to help people that were unemployed. they didn't use it nearly as much. and that would have been done well. essentially what we need to do is use all the power the federal government has to try to put some pressure on the financial institutions to be more flexible. but beyond that i have to tell you, it is really too complicate ford a short answer. >> i can appreciate that and another huge question, european debt crisis, how worried are you as somebody who follows this closely about the affect that could have on the united states? >> i am worried. here is the point. in the last quarter of 2009 and first quarter of 2010 our economy was getting much better. we were making significant improvement. unemployment was coming down and the greek crisis hit. and then we started moving
up again there were good domestic economic numbers. our economic policies coming out of that terrible recession that president obama inherited are getting better but once again the major threat is not anything that's happening here but the carry over from the european crisis. so i was very pleased to see the federal reserve and i think ben bernanke does an excellent job step up the way they did and work with the other central banks and give a kind of a boost. i support what the obama administration is doing, trying hard to get europe to deal with it because if the europeans can control their situation, if they can prevent the kind of serious meltdown then i think you will see continued significant progress here in america, not to the point where we would like to be but a significant uptrend. but it is the case, the world is interconnected and if there is a terrible crisis in europe, yes it will have negative affects her hoo in america. i will say this under our legislation, we have an ability to shelter ourselves more than we had before. but the worst the cries sis the less we're going to be able to deal with that. >> all right, final question today, the house democratic
leader nancy pell osist-- pelosi had some fond memories of youment ones thof is she remembers getting fashion advice from you, she once said to her you looked at her suit and said throw that away. i guess my question is how off done you give out that advice and how off done your friends follow it. >> i don't give it out very often by i reject the notion stlau to be a practitioner to give good advice. mi a lousy cook but i am a pretty good judge of a good meal. >> brown: barney frank, representative from the state of massachusetts, thank you very much for talking with us. >> thank you, judy. >> brown: finally tonight, the war next-door. hari sreenivasan has our update. >> sreenivasan: the death toll keeps mounting in mexico's drug war, now more than 45,000 dead since president felipe calderon committed the army and federal police to combating the drug gangs five years ago. ioan grillo has been covering
the drug war for our partners at the international news website globalpost. and now he has written a book, "el narco: inside mexico's criminal insurgency," an account of his more than ten years investigating mexico's criminal cartels. welcome, thanks for being us. >> thank you. >> put it in perspective. this is an actual wore on the -- war on the border of the united states. we talked about the statistics of people killed but why should america be more concerned? >> well, when you see the situation on the ground you see it go way beyond criminal violence. the numbers don't really do justice to this. when you have seen incidents where there is mass graves, more than 200 bodies and single massacres of more than 72 people, that's more than many war zones. what really brings it home is when we had a chance to interview some of the player, some of the assassins and talk to these people who have committed many, many more murders than they can count. to understand where they are coming from. and they see themselves as being combatant in a war
zone. the only way they connection plain this violence is because they feel like soldiers fighting in a war, doing things that have gone beyond the peal. >> reporter: and how has it gotten this bad. i mean mexico's murder rate has tripled since calderon took office, since he basically declared war. >> basically mexico, where you had 71 years with one paeft in control-- one party in control of the country, controlling all the police forces and the military, now we've had this great democracy and there were celebration ten years ago its same way we see celebration in egypt and tunisia and libya now. but unfortunately with the multiparty democracy, different political parties control different police forces. and often the police forces are actively fighting each other. which is an extraordinary thing that is happening like when in one state prisoners were being let out of a jail to commit murders in a separate state, carry out massacres and returning to their cells in the evening. so incredible things are
happening there. >> is there anything that the government is doing that is working? >> well, the government is effective in taking down the big cartel leaders. we see big figures like arturo-- a major international drug trafficker with information from the u.s., the mexican marines gunned him down. but what happens is when these kingpins are taken down, you get different rivals fighting over their empires. and because the drug trade is worth about $30 billion every year selling heroin, crystal meth, marijuana and cocaine to american users, the rivals are keeping fighting over this bounty. >> how complicated is this relationship between the united states and mexico about the drug war? >> it is very complicated. and we see this opening up, a real can of worms when violence is happening. we have, for example, the issue of american guns coming to mexican, operations trying to trace american guns to mexico which have created real by national tensions. we also have american agents now, the profile one
undercover dea agent who infiltrated a colombian cartel and mexican cartel, on the ground, in espionage work. this opses up all kinds of issues with the two countries. two american agents who were shot dead earlier this year on american soil. >> in the middle of all this they've got a presidential campaign coming up. how does that happen and what is likely to happen? >> well, it is going to be very interesting seeing next year what happens in the election. in my opinion whoever takes power will change the strategy, will change the focus because no president wants to be right now with 50,000 deaths, with accusations of human right as buses by the military and so forth. they want to change focus. one real risk is in the election we see the criminal violence combining with the political tensions. so you see drug cartel hit men being used by politicians to attack their rivals. and that could create a situation where it really does push this over the
edge. >> in kind of a personal question considering that some of your sources that you've spoke tone have already been killed, are you concerned for your own safety because there have been several mexican journalists that have been working in this, on this story or different parts of this story that have been killed as well. i mean the more your book succeeds on am zon the bigger the target gets on your back. >> well, it's definitely a very violent and intimidating environment for any journalist covering this in mexico. when you talk to people who describe committing murders, i mean obviously are you worried about whether they will like the coverage or not. every time you come down and write or you edit a video it is obviously the first thing on your mind, and the mexican colleagues who are really exposed in the front line states, you know t can be very hard for people, very stressful for many of these people. we is have to all exercise a certain amount of self-censorship, we have to not include names, address of people or things that could really affect their business.
this book is to tell the human stories of people, all sides of this conflict and try and raise the bigger policy issues which won't affect oranger the cartels but will help people make better decisions about how to handle this situation. >> all right, the book is called el narco inside mexican's criminal insurgency, thank you for being with us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: president obama marked world aids day and pledged to provide h.i.v. treatment for millions more in the united states and around the world. and senate democrats and republicans moved to block each other's plans for extending the payroll tax cut for another year. and to kwame holman for what's on the "newshour" online. kwame? >> holman: our health page has the story of a doctor who spent
two decades collecting hiv awareness posters from around the world and more on the long- term prognosis for funding aids treatment in this country. on making sense, a cartoonist depicts the smackdown given to the s.e.c. by a federal judge. all that and more is on our web site: newshour.pbs.org. judy? >> woodruff: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
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